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Guatemala

This article is about the country. For the city with the same name, see Guatemala City.


The Republic of Guatemala is a country in Central America, in the south of the continent of North America, bordering both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is bordered by Mexico in the north, Belize in the northeast and Honduras and El Salvador in the southeast.

Republica de Guatemala
(In Detail[?]) (Full size)
National motto: None
Official language Spanish
Capital Guatemala
President Alfonso Portillo[?]
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 103th
108,890 km2
0.4%
Population
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 63rd
12,974,361
119/km2
IndependenceSeptember 15, 1821
Currency Quetzal
Time zone UTC-6
National anthem Guatemala Feliz
Internet TLD.GT
Calling Code502

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Guatemala

From the 4th to the 11th century, the lowlands of the Peten region of Guatemala was the heart of the flourishing Maya civilisation. After the collapse of the lowland states, the Maya states of the central highlands continued until conquered by the Spanish, who first arrived in 1523 and colonised the area.

Guatemala became independent of Spain in 1821, first briefly as part of Mexico, later as a part of the United Provinces of Central America. This confederation fell apart in a war from 1838 to 1840, and Guatemala became an independent nation.

Guatemalan history has since been marked by revolutions, coups and non-democratic governments. A guerilla war was ended in 1996, leading to democratically held elections in 1999. Current president Portillo sees it as his task to improve the economic situation of Guatemala, and has strengthened ties with Mexico and the United States.

Politics Main article: Politics of Guatemala

Guatemala's parliament, the Congreso de la Republica (Congress of the Republic) with 113 seats, is elected every four years, concurrently with the presidential elections. The president acts as the head of state and head of government. In his executive tasks, he is assisted by a cabinet of minister which are appointed by the president.

Departments Main article: Departments of Guatemala[?]

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments (departamentos):

Geography Main article: Geography of Guatemala


Map

Except for the coastal areas, Guatemala is mostly mountainous, with a hot tropical climate - more temperate in the highlands. Most of the major cities are situated in the southern half of the country; the major cities are the capital Guatemala, Quetzaltenango and Escuintla[?]. The large lake Lago de Izabal[?] is situated close to the Caribbean coast.

Economy Main article: Economy of Guatemala

The agricultural sector accounts for one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. Manufacturing and construction account for one-fifth of GDP. Since assuming office in January 1996, former President ARZU worked to implement a program of economic liberalization and political modernization. The signing of the peace accords in December 1996, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch[?] caused relatively little damage to Guatemala compared to its neighbors. Remaining challenges include beefing up government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, and increasing the efficiency and openness of both government and private financial operations. Growth should remain at the same level in 2000 provided world agricultural prices do not plunge.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Guatemala

More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan nations. Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and indigenous ancestry) are known as Ladinos. Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively.

Though the official language is Spanish, it is not universally understood among the indigenous population. However, the Peace Accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords).

Culture Main article: Culture of Guatemala[?]

Influences of the Mayans and Spanish colonists can still be seen throughout Guatemala. Much of the clothing is still made in the traditional Mayan way, and many Mayan ruins can be found.

Miscellaneous topics

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